Top Five Politicians with Facial Hair 2018

By David Michael Newstead.

5. Jeremy Corbyn – Still in opposition, British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has strengthened his position within his party. But while he inspires committed support from left-wing voters and activists, Corbyn also seems perpetually dogged by controversies.

4. Mohammed bin Salman – Mohammed bin Salman was appointed to be the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia in the middle of 2017. Since then, he has pushed for major reforms in Saudi society such as lifting the ban on women driving. And at age 32, he could conceivably lead the kingdom for decades once he ascends to the throne.

3. Narendra Modi – Prime Minister of India since 2014, Modi is a Hindu Nationalist and heads the most populous democracy on Earth.

2. Raul Castro – Cuban President Raul Castro will step down on April 19, 2018, ending the Castro family’s six decades in power. And while the Communist Party will retain its control of the country, the pace of political change is likely to increase in the years to come, especially with the Castro brothers out of the picture.

1. John Bolton – A controversial neoconservative hawk and advocate of regime change, Bolton was recently appointed to be President Trump’s new National Security Adviser.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Beard

By David Michael Newstead.

If opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn manages to become Prime Minister, he’ll be Britain’s first leader with facial hair since Conservative Harold Macmillan in 1963 and the first with a full beard since Conservative Robert Gascoyne-Cecil in 1902. And although recent electoral success has earned him comparisons to fellow Labour leader Clement Attlee, Corbyn’s work is far from over. In the meantime, here’s a look at some of the best facial hair in British political history.

Top Five Politicians with Facial Hair 2017

By David Michael Newstead.

Politicians with facial hair are few and far between, especially in Western democracies. While it’s normally associated with left-wing revolutionaries, here’s a look at the top five politicians with facial hair in 2017 from around the world and across the political spectrum.

5. Jeremy Corbyn – Head of the British Labour Party, Corbyn is a committed leftist and longtime member of Parliament who’s party leadership has often been challenged as Labour struggles to appeal to voters.

4. Beppe Grillo – Grillo is an Italian comedian and activist who founded the anti-establishment Five Star Movement in 2009. Since then, the Five Star Movement has had notable success, winning mayoral elections in Rome and Turin as well as helping to defeat Italy’s 2016 constitutional referendum.

3. Steve Bannon – A top advisor in the Trump administration, Bannon is formerly the head of Breitbart News. Synonymous with the Alt-Right movement, Bannon expounds a far-right and economic nationalist vision for the United States.

2. Jagmeet Singh – An up-and-coming politician in Canada’s New Democratic Party, Singh is popular on social media and a prominent member of the Sikh faith who was recently featured in GQ magazine for being so well-dressed. Read Here.

1. Tom Perez – Until recently Perez was Secretary of Labor in the Obama administration. Now the newly elected Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Perez is tasked with rebuilding the Democratic Party after their losses in 2016. It’s worth noting that his main opponent for DNC Chair was Representative Keith Ellison who also has facial hair, a rarity in American politics.


This Man, This Moustache – Napoleon III


By David Michael Newstead.

Although he’s less well known than his uncle, Napoleon III occupies an interesting place in history that reverberates in the modern world more than you might think. He was the first democratically elected President of France, fought against Russia in the Crimean War, and he’s essentially the reason that Mexico celebrates Cinco de Mayo.

Commenting on Napoleon III, Karl Marx once wrote, “History repeats itself… first as tragedy, then as farce.”

Not surprisingly, Napoleon III will forever be stuck in the shadow of the original Napoleon Bonaparte. But who was this moustached man that led a nation?

A child during his uncle’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon III spent the majority of his life trying to recapture the political power his family once held. He lived in exile for years in Italy, Switzerland, and Great Britain. He staged two coup attempts, which both failed and ultimately landed him in a French prison. But populist uprisings in Europe soon brought about dramatic changes and universal male suffrage favored a candidate with name recognition!

After the Revolutions of 1848, Napoleon III was elected President of France with 74 percent of the vote, the first direct presidential election in the country. However, that democratic zeal wavered pretty quickly as Napoleon III took to calling himself the Prince-President. Then in 1851, he staged a coup, declaring himself to be Emperor. The National Assembly was weakened, the constitution rewritten, censorship was enforced, and the regime’s critics faced harsh authoritarian repression. In short order, the French Second Republic officially became the Second French Empire. With tyrannical ease, Napoleon III championed a host of domestic social reforms like girls’ education, workers’ rights, and the renovation of the city of Paris. But overseas imperialism really defined his reign. During this time, France seized territory, colonized, and took on an active international role, intervening in the Asia/Pacific region, in Africa, and elsewhere.

In its most ridiculous form, this resulted in France trying to install an Austrian as the Emperor of Mexico. Then in a more subtle example, Napoleon III critically debated whether to recognize the Confederate States of America as a separate country during the American Civil War, which would have dealt a major setback to the Union cause.

In the end though, he decided not to officially recognize the Confederacy. And the Austrian Emperor of Mexico? That man would later be executed by Mexicans opposed to French meddling. Like his famous uncle, Napoleon III squandered progressive ideals, massaged his own ego, and would fall from power at the expense of the country he ruled. In 1870, he was dethroned in the Franco-Prussian War. And in the aftermath of that conflict, Germany was unified, France was severely defeated, and the seeds of future wars were planted across Europe. The Second Empire became the Third Republic and Napoleon III would die in England in 1873.

He’s not often remembered today, but Napoleon III clearly had a flare for the dramatic in fashion, facial hair, and politics. Unfortunately for him, pride cometh before the fall.


The Beard Index: World Leaders 2014


By David Michael Newstead.

Originally, I set out to do the Beard Index, because I thought it would be interesting and amusing to compare the facial hair styles of current world leaders. I’d throw in a couple funny photographs and that would be about it. After looking over this stuff for a while though, the takeaway for me is that this is a very clear illustration of just how few world leaders are women. Now, I guess I was aware of that fact anyway, but certain comparisons really drive the point home.

For example, depending on who shaves and how they shave, there are possibly more world leaders with a goatee today than the total number of female heads of state. Now, presidents with goatees are not very common. That said, if you compare them to all the female presidents and prime ministers, it’s really too close to call. Meanwhile, leaders with moustaches and beards easily dwarf the handful of female presidents today, but this prominence of facial hair is a matter of location and culture, centered mainly in Africa and the Middle East. The high ranking leadership of Western countries is almost 100% clean-shaven and male. Globally, 47 heads of state have a moustache (2 of those also have a soul patch). 12 other leaders have some kind of beard. 4 others definitely have goatees. 4 others vary in their facial hair. And 2 leaders have thick stubble on a regular basis. Everyone else is clean-shaven.

Of course, this information can be viewed a number of ways. There is the sharp cultural divide between the clean-shaven West and everyone else. There are our collective perceptions about who is bearded and what we think of them. And then, there are the overwhelming gender ratios that reach across borders, even in comparatively progressive Western countries. (How many current female presidents are you capable of naming?)

Among the G-7 nations of top global economies, there is only 1 female head of state – Angela Merkel of Germany. Because of that, I think it might be worthwhile to revisit the Beard Index in the future to see what has changed and what hasn’t. Until then, the names below will fluctuate from elections, wars, and coups, but how many of them will ever reflect equality?

Middle East & North Africa
Syria – Bashar al-Assad
Saudi Arabia – King Abdullah
Qatar – Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani
Kuwait – Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah
Palestine – Mahmoud Abbas
UAE – Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Bahrain – King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa
Algeria – Abdelaziz Bouteflika

Sub-Saharan Africa
Guinea – Alpha Conde
Seychelles – James Michel
Comoros – Ikililou Dhoinine
Rwanda – Paul Kagame
Malawi – Peter Mutharika
Mozambique – Armando Guebuza
Togo – Faure Gnassingbe
Cameroon – Paul Biya (Note – Also has soul patch)
Sudan – Omar al-Bashir
Congo – Denis Nguesso
Eritrea – Isaias Afwerki
Gabon – Ali Bongo Ondimba
Zambia – Michael Sata
Botswana – Ian Khama
Senegal – Macky Sall
Mauritania – Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
Niger – Mahamadou Issoufou
Zimbabwe – Robert Mugabe (Note – Has a creepy Hitler-like moustache)
Burundi – Pierre Nkurunziza
Swaziland – King Mswati III
Uganda – Yoweri Museveni

The Pacific
Nauru – Baron Waqa
Kiribati – Anote Tong
Papua New Guinea – Peter O’Neill
Palau – Tommy Remengesau (Note – Also has soul patch)

The Americas
Dominican Republic – Danilo Sanchez
Dominica – Charles Savarin
Cuba – Raul Castro
Nicaragua – Daniel Ortega
Aruba – Mike Eman
Trinidad and Tobago – Anthony Carmona
Saint Lucia – Kenny Anthony
Antigua and Barbuda – Gaston Browne

Albania – Bujar Nishani
Hungary – Janos Ader
Belarus – Alexander Lukashenko

Central & South Asia
Pakistan – Mamnoon Hussain
Sri Lanka – Mahinda Rajapaksa
Azerbaijan – Ilham Aliyev

Middle East & North Africa
Oman – Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said
Iran – Hassan Rouhani
Djibouti – Ismail Omar Guelleh

India – Narendra Modi
Afghanistan – Hamid Karzai

Spain – King Felipe VI and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (Note – Both Bearded)
Bosnia and Herzegovina – Bakir Izetbegovic

Sub-Saharan Africa
Somalia – Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
South Sudan – Salva Kiir Mayardit

The Americas
Saint Kitts and Nevis – Denzil Douglas
Guyana – President Donald Ramotar and Prime Minister Sam Hinds (Note – Both Bearded)
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines – Ralph Gonsalves

Suriname – Desi Bouterse
Kenya – Uhuru Kenyatta
Cape Verde – Jorge Carlos Fonseca
Brunei – Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah

Morocco – King Mohammed VI
Jordan – King Abdullah II
Democratic Republic of Congo – Joseph Kabila
Benin – Thomas Yayi Boni

Lesotho – King Letsie III
Iraq – Nouri al-Maliki (Note – Recently Deposed)


The Father of Sideburns


By David Michael Newstead.

The life of Ambrose Burnside reads like the caricature of a man in America in the 1800’s. He was a Civil War General, a railroad executive, and, of course, the wearer of very unusual facial hair.

Beyond that, details about this public figure have more or less fallen by the wayside of history. It’s an odd thing to realize, but the most enduring legacy of this former military leader and United States Senator might be his connection to the term “sideburns”. Still, that’s more notoriety than the average politician will ever be able to claim. (Will anyone remember Newt Gingrich in 100 years?) And while sideburns are hardly the worst facial hair to be associated with, by itself this doesn’t do justice to a man’s biography or cultural impact.

A native of Indiana, Ambrose was the fourth of nine children whose mother died when he was in his teens. He went on to graduate from West Point in 1847 as an artillery officer and served in the tail end of the Mexican-American War. Afterwards, he fought in the cavalry against Native Americans across the Southwest, even taking an arrow to the neck at one point. Promoted and relocated to Rhodes Island because of this injury, Burnside would soon thereafter marry, resign his Army commission, and start his own business as a firearms manufacturer around 1853. The most notable of his inventions was the Burnside Carbine and just like today, the arms industry is an extremely profitable endeavor. Not surprisingly then, Ambrose became active in state politics, the railroad business, and the equivalent of the state’s National Guard.

The convergence of all these facts quickly propelled him into a position of leadership in the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. The now General Burnside would command troops in various capacities in some of the most famous battles of that conflict, including Antietam and the Battle of Bull Run. However, controversies over high Union casualties and poor decision making eventually resulted in the resignation of his command in 1864 towards the end of the conflict after the disastrous Battle of the Crater. That said, his record as a leader during the Civil War pretty much mirrored the nature of the war itself: some victories, some defeats, poor communications, and heavy casualties all around.

Having survived the bloodiest conflict in American history, Burnside went on to serve as the president of several railroad companies and veterans organizations as well as the Governor of Rhodes Island. Most notably on this list of leadership roles for a former arms manufacturer, Ambrose Burnside was the first president of the National Rifle Association (NRA) at its founding in 1871. During that time, however, the organization was more focused on marksmanship in significant contrast to the NRA we know today. Then in 1874, this former Democrat was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Republican from Rhodes Island and chaired the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Ambrose Burnside would later die of coronary artery disease in 1881 at age 57, outlasting the average male life expediency of that time period by a decade. While that would be the end of the story in most cases, Burnside’s influence lived on in other unexpected ways after his death. People began to refer to Men’s mutton chops as burnsides, then sideburns around 1887 in reference to the Senator and have continued to do so ever since. Like all facial hair, this style can be viewed differently depending on location and era of history from Victorian sideburns to rebellious biker sideburns. Whether this place in our vocabulary is the legacy that Ambrose Burnside would have wanted, no one knows. Regardless, it is most definitely the legacy that he has.